RIO DE JANEIRO: Barcelona have taken the lead over Real Madrid in the bidding to sign controversial, banned striker Luis Suarez from Liverpool writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The Catalan club’s president, Josep Bartomeu, is confident that the player has indicated, via his representatives, that he would be keen to play alongside Leo Messi and Neymar at Nou Camp next season.

World federation FIFA confirmed in Rio, after announcing Suarez’s four-month ban from all football, that this would not affect any possible transfer negotiation or completion.

Barcelona are reported in Spain to be preparing an initial offer which would not match a £52m buy-out clause in cash but would include the offer of a number of players in part-exchange.

These could include Chilean World Cup star Alexis Sanchez and Spain forward Pedro.

European champions Real Madrid have apparently had second thoughts about Suarez because of not only the biting incident but because of the fine World Cup form of Karim Benzema.

Liverpool ‘get-out’

Phil Thompson, the former Liverpool captain, said on Sky Sports News that the latest “shame” might encourage the club in selling him.#

Thompson said: “Thinking of the support the guy has had – from Brendan Rodgers, from [owner] John Henry, from the fans; most of them have stuck by him through thick and thin and it is like a smack in the face to everybody.

“He is playing for my football club and he’s brought embarrassment, he’s brought shame on the football club again. He’s the Footballer of the Year, the Players’ Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Player of the Year. We thought he’d sorted himself out but this is a massive shock.

“He was a fantastic player for all the right reasons, which is why I feel he’s let us down. Will Barcelona or Real Madrid still want him with all this baggage? I think they’ll still covet him and I think that would be a good get-out for Liverpool. I think this [transfer specualation] was going on in the background anyway so it might make life easier.”